Sunday, 27 September 2020


Purangi Heritage Project an acknowledgement of historical significance of Purangi Estuary

The Purangi Heritage Project is an acknowledgement of the historical significance of the Purangi Estuary and surrounding area to both the earliest Maori residents and the later European visitors.

The project is being developed by a group of Cooks Beach residents - including Lesley Morrison, John Steele and Gordon Whiteacre - who submitted a proposal to identify three or four historic sites in the vicinity of the Purangi which relate to James Cook’s visit to Te Whanganui o Hei/Mercury Bay in 1769 and the Purangi’s importance to Ngāti Hei.

“The project came about because many Cooks Beach locals felt there were significant historical spots at the Purangi Estuary which no one knew about,” says Lesley. “Those spots definitely needed greater recognition.”

Part of the project involves a bronze replica sextant created by prominent New Zealand sculptor, Bill Hayes, specially commissioned to sit atop the plinth at Cooks Beach that approximately marks the spot where Cook observed a transit of Mercury. The plinth is to be re-installed after toppling into the sea last year as a result of erosion. Carefully thought-out landscaping will be done around the re-installed plinth. Just prior to the plinth toppling onto the sea, Gordon, a retired dentist and Cooks Beach holiday homeowner, had spent many hours completely refurbishing the bronze plaque on the plinth.  

“In the last five years in particular, rapidly increasing numbers of tourists have been coming to visit the Cook transit site at the Purangi,” says John. “The locals felt the original plinth didn’t really do justice to the area’s significance, so we’re pleased that TCDC and others agreed to support an upgrade.”

A marker buoy will also be installed off Cooks Beach, as close as possible to the spot where HMB Endeavour was moored for 12 days in November 1769. The buoy will be bright yellow, identified as the “Endeavour Buoy,” fitted with a night light and will visible from many spots around Mercury Bay, including Shakespeare Cliff.  

New heritage signs are planned to outline the historical significance of the Purangi Estuary and point out key features. One such sign will be installed by the stream now identified as Wairere Tūhukea, which runs down from the limestone hills above the estuary. Cook dubbed it the “Watering Place” or “Water Barrel Stream,” as it is where his crew refilled their water barrels before floating them back to the Endeavour.   

The Purangi Heritage Project is supported by the TCDC, the Mercury Bay 250 Trust (with funding from the Lotteries Tuia-Encounters 250 Programme), Waikato Regional Council, the Whitianga Harbourmaster and the corporate trustee of the Stella Evered Memorial Park.

The Stella Evered Memorial Park, located across the Purangi Estuary, is undergoing significant improvements in the lead up to the Tuia 250 commemoration activities later this year, including new fencing, toilets, walkways, substantial tree planting and pest control. Additional heritage signage is also to be installed at the park where Cook first raised the King’s Colours flag. There are also plans for a raised observation platform to look out across Mercury Bay to the Endeavour mooring spot and the Wharetaewa Pa at Wharekaho.

It is hoped an informal public ceremony will be held during the weekend of Saturday 19 October and Sunday 20 October this year to mark the completion of the Purangi Heritage Project.

Pictured: The plinth that approximately marked the spot where James Cook observed a transit of Mercury in 1769 is waiting to be reinstalled.


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